Heidi Klum: Supermodel, Super Mom, Super Mogul

The world-famous beauty has long since left the runway, but she's still always on the run.

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 01, 2015

Heidi Klum RULES.

She dominates the airwaves, celebrating her 14th season in August hosting Project Runway, for which she's won an Emmy, her 10th season hosting Germany's Next Topmodel, and her third season as a judge for America's Got Talent. And she reigns over her domestic front as a single mom to four children.

But Klum, 42, is quick to say she is not superhuman, though she's clearly a human with a blessed gene pool (she was a top model before she got in the business of judging them) and an inimitable energy level. She happily posts makeup-free pictures on social media and hashtag reports of her occasional jogs, #IknowI'mslow! and #tryit!

"It doesn't hurt for people to see how I wake up in the morning and that the world of modeling is one of illusion," she says of her selfies. "And when I post photos of my running it's because I'm not afraid to show what a snail I am. But I'm doing this for myself, and maybe other people will say, 'Hey, I run slow, too, so maybe I can get on a treadmill.'"

Klum's encouragement of her fans is a reaction to the criticism she heard at the beginning of her career. Raised in Germany by her mother, a hairdresser, and father, a cosmetics company executive, Klum won a modeling competition at 18. "As a model you're always being judged, with people saying things like, 'You should lose weight,'" she says, "and when I started in 1992, the look was 'heroin chic.' I was too healthy and happy for everyone. You get a thick skin pretty fast. I realized that at the end of the day I have to be happy with myself, and people are going to like me or not like me."

She may have felt unwelcome in the world of high fashion, but Victoria's Secret embraced her lush look (she was an "Angel" for more than a decade), and she became a regular Sports Illustrated swimsuit model before deftly sliding into TV. "We all have to find our space and what we're good at," she says. "For instance, I tried acting, and I'm not good at it. But I've always tried to be creative about what my next step should be, and while I never knew where I would be today, I did work for it, and I always give 100%."

All in the Family

Klum is equally passionate -- and disciplined -- about being a hands-on mother to her children Leni, 11, Henry, 9, Johan, 8, and daughter Lou, 5. Divorced from their father, the musician Seal, Klum says family remains her priority regardless of career and social demands. "It always comes first," she says. "I have four kids, and I'm a working mom, so a lot of the times my friends get the short end of the stick. And you do need an adult life. But we're all juggling more than ever, so my friends understand."

For Klum, that means when she walks in the door at the end of the day, she leaves her phone and bag on the table. Family dinners are a nightly affair. "They're important," she says. "It's about sitting around casually and just talking, whether it's about school or using it as time to teach children about social media or about the world we're living in. I try to do my best," she says, "But then, every mom does."

Still, Klum is aware that her family is not typical. "My kids already know that all parents are different," she says, and that includes her parenting style. "I'm a little more relaxed about certain things. My kids will say, 'Why are you lying by the pool without a top on?' and I don't do that when their friends are around, but when it's just us, sure. I say, 'What's important is you're a good person and a nice person.' But we do have rules."

Edicts include eating only at the table, using good table manners, and focusing on nutrition. "For the first 2 years when I was making fruit and vegetable smoothies for them, I would line their piggy banks up on the table and pay them each a quarter for finishing," she says with a laugh. "But I haven't bribed them in years, and now it's just a part of their lifestyle." And while the children are expected to eat the same food as the adults -- "it's good to help them develop their palates" -- Klum is willing to cater occasionally to their individual tastes. "Sometimes we do eggs, but Henry wants hard boiled, Johan wants fried, Leni wants egg whites, and Lou wants soft boiled. It can feel like a restaurant, but they are all different people and it's not a big deal."

The refrigerator is always stocked with cut-up vegetables -- "everyone can pick their favorite dressing to put on them" -- and Klum emphasizes the importance of cooking as a family. "Monday is chicken soup day, which is beautiful because it's about a ritual," she explains. "We have a fresh chicken, and we cut up the vegetables, and when we're traveling the kids are jonesing for that chicken soup. And Leni now makes pancakes better than I do because we've always made them together."

As for Klum's eating habits, "people are surprised that I eat as much as I do, but it's because what I eat is healthy," she says. "Breakfast is a big bowl of yogurt with fruit or oatmeal and a smoothie; snacks are hard boiled eggs and whatever healthy food is in the house." When she's not at home, "I can get jittery and need to eat quickly, so my bag always has protein bars or almonds in it."

Sleeping Beauty

Klum says she exercises, but without much scheduled time for fitness. "I'll run occasionally to raise my heart rate, and I bought this circle on TV that you squeeze between your thighs to keep the muscles from getting loose and then squeeze in front of your chest, which is good for your arms and boobs. But I feel like my whole life is exercise. I'm never just sitting around on the couch."

Klum is vigilant about getting enough sleep, which she says is the secret to her sanity. She's in bed by 9 p.m., whenever possible, a lesson she learned the hard way. "I would put my kids to bed and fall asleep next to them and then wake up at 11 p.m. and have to get to sleep again. You can't do that every day -- getting up at 6 a.m. and making breakfast and dropping kids at school and then going to the studio. If I don't get sleep, I can't function," she continues, "let alone be sparkly. People don't hire me to be grungy; they want me to be happy and energized, and I can't be perky on 5 hours of sleep."

Michael Breus, PhD, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health, praises Klum for her routine and for knowing the amount of shut-eye that's right for her. "The body craves consistency, and if you vary what time you go to bed by even 30 to 45 minutes, your body will try to shift your whole clock," he says. "Everyone has a different and specific amount of sleep that they need."

The best way to determine that amount, Breus says, is to start with your necessary wake time and then count back. "The average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long, and a night's sleep consists of five of them," he explains, "So if you need to get up at 6 a.m., try going to sleep at 10:30 p.m. Do that for a week, and if you can wake up without an alarm, within 5 to 10 minutes of when you need to get up, that's the right bedtime for you." If you're still hitting the snooze button, "start moving bedtime back by 30 minutes."

As part of Klum's nighttime routine, she keeps "a book next to my bed where I can write down what I want to do the next day, because my head is full of too many things, and now that I'm getting older I am getting forgetful," she says with a laugh. "And sometimes when I lie in bed writing things down I do fall asleep. But I think we are given as much as we can handle, and if I couldn't handle it all, I would stop juggling all these things."

Her energy level, she says, is inherited from her mother, a frequent guest in the house. "My mother will come visit from Germany and I'll say, 'Why don't you have a vacation day?' We have 5 acres, a pool, a garden... if you're from a small town in Germany, being in L.A. is like a holiday. But no," Klum says. "She has to be organizing my kitchen, or she's in my closet making piles of things to throw out."

Klum's delighted for the help with the closet -- she says keeping it clean is almost as crucial as sleep when it comes to feeling attractive. "What happens is you start to accumulate the sweatpants and baggy jeans and schlumpy shirts and granny underwear that make you feel comfortable, and if they're there, you wear them. So a few years ago I got rid of those things to start to really enjoy the pretty things that are in my closet." Her appreciation of beautiful lingerie eventually led her to design her own brand of underwear, Heidi Klum Intimates.

It's hard to imagine Klum would need a boost from clothing to feel gorgeous, but she insists, "Of course I have days where I think I've looked better! But time isn't stopping for anyone, and I'm comfortable in my own skin. What are you going to do -- sit there and moan about another wrinkle? Be happy you're alive, be happy that you're getting older," she says.

"So we don't always feel amazing about ourselves. Roll with it! It's always good to open your eyes in the morning and say, 'This is a good day.'"

Heidi's Hit List

Klum has spent her adult life being paid to look good, and she's picked up plenty of tips she's happy to share.

Come clean. "To have beautiful skin you must cleanse properly," Klum says. "Take off your makeup at the end of the day."

Get moving. "Raise your heart rate occasionally," she says. "It takes me an hour to jog 4 miles, but I'm not in competition with anyone."

Glow from within. "Your skin is a mirror of what's going on in your body," she says. "If I break out, it has a lot to do with something I ate."

Be consistent. "Nothing is a quick fix," Klum says. "The best thing is to have a healthy lifestyle. See what you can cut out or replace with other things. Maybe you don't need three venti lattes a day."

Mix it up. "I never like the word 'diet' because I don't think it's good to eat the same things," she says. "It's all about variety. Eat your greens and then a mixture of things."

When all else fails, cover up. "We all have nights where we stay out too late. The next day, just think about how much fun you had having an adult night and get through it. Sunglasses help."

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Show Sources


Heidi Klum, mother, TV judge.


Michael Breus, author, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep, Rodale Books, 2011.

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